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A daring proposal to save Amazonia

Cortesía Martin von Hildebrand
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An initiative to create an "ecological corridor," seeking support across the continent, may finally become a reality.

Somewhere along the line, he earned for himself the title of “The Paladin of Amazonia,” and it seems he really does deserve it. Martin von Hildebrand, American war veteran and Colombian by adoption—and nephew of Dietrich von Hildebrand, a famous German Catholic philosopher and theologian, who managed to escape the clutches of Nazism—has spent years traveling the rivers and jungles of Amazonia. Besides being a great defender of the indigenous peoples, he has a very special dream: to save the region.

Actually, this dream—which many people think is an audacious or crazy idea—isn’t anything new; he’s been working on it for more than 30 years.

What’s his proposal? Nothing less than the creation of an ecological and cultural corridor—called Triple A Corridor—with the goal of protecting 964,869 square miles of Amazonia (1/3 of the total area). An article in the Colombian newspaper El Espectador highlighted recent developments.

The name of the corridor comes from the fact that the proposal consists of an ecological corridor starting at the Atlantic Ocean, passing through Amazonia, and ending in the Andes. This means eight countries will be involved (Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Guyana, French Guyana, and Surinam).

“As the indigenous people say, the important thing is to weave the basket. Once we have the corridor, we can begin to work,” said von Hildebrand to El Espectador. He is encouraged by the fact that various countries in the region have been working for years on protecting certain areas.

Another aspect of the project is the role of indigenous peoples, who play an important part; nearly 400 indigenous communities are expected to be involved.

Lute Sem Fronteiras | CC

There is hope

Recently, the idea gained momentum when the president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, during the International Conference on Sustainable Development at Columbia University in New York, announced that he was going to send a letter to Brazilian president Michel Temer to advance the cause of the Andes-Amazonia-Atlantic ecological corridor.

Hidebrand, on his part, has not tired of “knocking on doors” and convening various authorities of the countries involved, non-governmental organizations, scientists, and businessmen, among others. It was at the conference mentioned above where his proposal reached the ears of the Vatican, through the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo of Argentina, with whom Hildebrand met, according to El Espectador.

The Gaia Amazonas Foundation, of which Hildebrand is the president, was one of the organizers of the “From the Right to Water, to the Right to Peace” Seminar that took place at the Javeriana University in Bogotá during the pope’s recent visit to Colombia. The event, in which more than 100 experts participated, was also supported by other organizations such as the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network of Colombia.

Saving Amazonia shouldn’t be an isolated dream; it requires true awareness of the region’s importance for the future of the planet. Pope Francis himself made sure to emphasize this point in his message to the bishops of Colombia.

Francis referred to the wisdom of indigenous peoples, who are respectful of nature, and who use the expression “my other arm” to say “friend.” “May you be, therefore, the other arm of Amazonia,” Pope Francis said to the Colombian bishops. The pontiff has acted on many occasions as the spokesperson for the importance of this region, as in his encyclical Laudato Si’.

Everything seems to indicate that Hildebrand’s dream is now shared by many people, because it is closely tied to the growing awareness across the continent of the importance of Amazonia.

But at the same time, the project is not exempt from difficulties and challenges, due to the number of people and organizations who must join their wills to make it a reality, and due to the magnitude of the project. Among other things, there is the role of Brazil: a vast swath of Amazonia lies within that country’s national territory, and recently, Brazilian authorities have given mixed signals regarding proposals for that area of the world.

Has the time come for this dream to become reality?

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